Return of Varosha could be ‘game-changer’ says US ambassador


By Jean Christou – Cyprus Mail – Thursday, 27th March, 2014

THE return of Varosha to the Greek Cypriot side would be one of the “game-changing steps” the U.S. believes would create a new dynamic for the Cyprus talks, ambassador John Koenig said yesterday. Koenig was responding to a question about confidence-building measures (CBM) and specifically the return of the ghost town.

“We share the view that such steps could contribute very, very positively to the conclusion and implementation of a comprehensive settlement. These are not two different things. They are part of the same effort, after 40 years, to successfully reach a settlement and implement a settlement that will reunite the island and protect the interests of all Cypriots,” Koenig said after a meeting with ruling DISY leader Averof Neophytou.

Koenig said the US speaks with the Turkish government and with the Turkish Cypriot community with regard to CBMs for Cyprus, but said he would rather not use that precise term. “It is game-changing steps to be taken in order to create a new dynamic for the Cyprus issue that we are talking about and we discuss these at every opportunity with all of the parties involved,” he said.

Koenig said he had briefed Neophytou on his recent visit to Washington and on what US Secretary of State, John Kerry, had said regarding the Cyprus problem, “which is high on his priority list.” “We see a very significant opportunity for a settlement of the Cyprus problem for a new united Cyprus with very positive perspectives in all fields,” said the ambassador.

Neophytou also used the term “game-changer” when he referred to Varosha, saying however that CBMs could not be a substitute for a comprehensive settlement. “We’re aiming for a viable solution that will create prospects and hopes for all Cypriots,” he said.

Koenig did not comment on a statement by Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu that Kerry would visit Cyprus next month.  Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday Nicosia had no such information.

Only days away from the second meeting of President Nicos Anastasiades and Eroglu next Monday, the two sides did not appear to be in sync, either on Varosha as a CBM, or on what the next stage of the talks might entail.

Eroglu and his chief negotiator, Kudret Ozersay, have been talking in recent days as if the two sides were ready to begin the give-and-take part of the process. However, Stylianides was adamant this was not the case. “This is the beginning of the road, the solution is not ready, what it takes is hard negotiation, we need to form alliances and be determined based on the EU principles,” he said on Tuesday.

CBMs, and especially the return of Varosha would bring a new dynamic to the negotiations and this was also acknowledged by the international community, he added. It would boost the negotiations, improve the climate and create trust.

Yesterday, Styliandies told the public broadcaster: “The most important step in confidence-building remains Varosha.” Stylianides said that during their upcoming meeting the two leaders would assess what has been discussed so far between two chief negotiators.

Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis is expected to press home the Varosha issue during his visit to the US. But while the Greek Cypriot side insists that the give-and-take stage is not near, on the Turkish Cypriot side, Ozersay said conditions were ripe for that step as soon as the leaders get together, even by Monday. “If this whole process is called ‘Cyprus negotiations’ and not ‘chats’ the only remaining step is ‘give and take’,” he said.

Eroglu yesterday went as far as to say the Turkish side’s aim was to end the negotiations with simultaneous referenda before 2015. “We think that we should quickly pass into the mutual give-and-take process and end the negotiations with an agreement. The Greek Cypriot side has started acting as if it is not in a hurry but the world’s attention is focused on us,” he said. Eroglu said that he would bring it up with Anastasiades on Monday.

The negotiators have discussed the agenda for the meeting, but Ozersay said that while they agreed on some elements, there were others they had disagreed on.

He said the Greek Cypriots wanted to bring two subchapters to the table, but Ozersay said this could be done by the two negotiators rather than the leaders.

He said there was general agreement on the law but not on elections for the federal administration, the creation of decision-making mechanism, property, security and guarantees. The negotiators are due to meet again on April 8, 11 and 15, Ozersay said.

Earlier this week Turkish President Abdullah Gul met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the nuclear summit in the Hague and discussed Cyprus among other topics.

According to a spokesman of Ban, both agreed that it was critical to maintain the current momentum in the Cyprus talks. “The Secretary-General encouraged Turkey to continue to engage actively and constructively in the Cyprus issue,” said the spokesman.

By Jean Christou – Cyprus Mail – Thursday, 27th March, 2014

Redefining Famagusta for both communities

By Stefanos Evripidou – Published: November 26, 2013 – Cyprus Mail

A GROUP of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots from Famagusta yesterday called on the two leaders to take decisive steps to reunite the city, saying they were ready to help revive the entire district, both sides of the dividing line, through a “common vision”.

Just a stone’s throw from where the two leaders were due to meet last night in the buffer zone, the Bicommunal Famagusta Initiative (BFI) called for the return of Varosha to its legal owners under UN control, the opening of Famagusta port for trade, and declare the old walled city of Famagusta a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.

The Famagusta Initiative was first formed by Turkish Cypriots in 2010 who wanted to see the above three goals implemented.

Following recent developments and President Nicos Anastasiades’ proposal to open up Varosha as part of a package deal, a group of Greek Cypriots, including the Famagusta Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EVEA), welcomed the Turkish Cypriot initiative, and decided to join forces to develop a common vision for a sustainable revival of the wider Famagusta region.

The BFI hopes to see agreement on confidence-building measures regarding Famagusta which could lead to a comprehensive settlement.

The Initiative’s main immediate goal is to prepare a revival project for the wider Famagusta region, including the enclaved city and the walled city.

“A successful eventual revival of Famagusta will bring social, cultural, economic and political benefits for the whole island and thereby contribute to the peace process,” said the declaration.

Original member Okan Dagli said the aim was basically to show the public that the two communities could cooperate for a common cause which would push for an overall solution.

Presenting part of the “common vision” for the city, George Lordos said: “The goal should be a city of tomorrow – a model of peaceful co-existence and a magnet for creative youth to live.” A city that would be ecological and technological, he added.

On the initial Turkish Cypriot initiative, EVEA chairman Giorgos Michaelides said: “They want us to go back to our city, and work together for the development of the whole region. What else do we want?”

Another member, Hulusi Kilim noted that a recent poll of Turkish Cypriot residents of Famagusta showed that 82 per cent agreed with the proposal to return Varosha.

Varosha: The abandoned tourist resort

By Richard Hooper and Vibeke Venema – BBC World Service


Welcome to Varosha, the Mediterranean’s best kept secret. Miles of sand where it’s just you and nature. Dozens of grand hotels where you’ll have the pick of the rooms. Just remember to pack your bolt cutters to make a hole in the fence – and watch out for the army patrols with orders to shoot on sight.

Before the division of Cyprus in 1974, Varosha – a resort in Famagusta – was booming. The rich and famous were drawn by some of the best beaches on the island. Richard Burton and Brigitte Bardot all dropped by – the Argo Hotel on JFK Avenue was said to be Elizabeth Taylor’s favourite.

“Anyone who comes from Varosha has a romanticised notion of it,” says Vasia Markides, 34, an American Greek-Cypriot whose mother grew up there. “They talk about it being the hub of art and intellectual activity. They describe it as the French Riviera of Cyprus.”


But 40 years ago, after years of inter-ethnic violence culminating in a coup inspired by Greece’s ruling military junta, Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied the northern third of the island.

As its troops approached Varosha, a Greek-Cypriot community, the inhabitants fled, intending to return when the situation calmed down. However, the resort was fenced off by the Turkish military and has been a ghost town ever since. A UN resolution of 1984 calls for the handover of Varosha to UN control and prohibits any attempt to resettle it by anyone other than those who were forced out.


One of them was Markides’ mother Emily – she had just got married and her wedding presents were still in the attic when they abandoned the family home. Others tell stories of pots left cooking on stoves, of lives stopped in mid-frame.

In 2003, travel restrictions were eased for the first time, allowing Cypriots on both sides to cross the UN Buffer Zone, commonly known as the “Green Line”.

“The picture that I had in my mind was of a kind of paradise,” Vasia Markides says of the day when she returned to peer across the wire at her ancestral home for the first time. “But it felt like some sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare.

“You’re seeing nature take over. Prickly pear bushes have overrun the entire six square kilometres. There are trees that have sprouted through living rooms. It’s a ghost town.”


Signs warn tourists peering across the fence that “photos and movies are forbidden.” Trespassers risk death. Exiled residents regularly pin love-letters and flowers to the barbed wire.

Other than Turkish soldiers, few have ventured inside. Those that have describe extraordinary sights. A car dealership still stocked with 1974 cars, window displays of mannequins dressed in long-gone fashions, the sand dunes that have encroached over the seafront with rare sea turtles nesting in them. Pictures of the devastation circulate online but the photographers won’t always admit to taking them.  Anything of value is likely to have been looted long ago and the infrastructure is now damaged beyond repair. But Markides has big plans for Varosha.

“From the moment I saw it, I felt driven to see this place revive,” she says. “You could feel the energy, its potential, the energy that was once there.”


Now living in New York, Markides is spearheading a proposal to turn Varosha into an eco-city – a model for sustainability and peaceful coexistence. Her plans have gathered the support of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and she has formed an unlikely friendship.

It was just like living next-door to ghosts,” says Ceren Bogac, 34, a Turkish Cypriot who grew up in a house overlooking Varosha. “The houses had flower pots, curtains, but no one was living there – it was a space which had been left suddenly.” Her school was by the fence too, so if a ball got kicked over by mistake, it was gone forever.

Bogac’s grandparents were refugees from Larnaca in the South and had been given a Greek Cypriot home in exchange for the property they had to abandon. Bogac grew up there, but when she was five or six years old she made a troubling discovery.

“One day I found, in a box, the personal belongings of other people, like photo albums and journals,” says Bogac. “I asked my grandmother: ‘Who does this belong to?’ She said: ‘It belongs to the real owners of this house.’ And that was the first time I realised that we don’t own the house that we are living in.

“I was shocked,” she says. “I was thinking about how this happened, why these people had to leave their place and what their psychology was when they were running to get out. What kind of situation they had been faced with in order to leave everything behind – the children’s toys, the photo albums, everything.”

This childhood realisation shaped Bogac’s entire career – she became a psychologist and architect in order to understand how it affects people to live in someone else’s home. As part of her research she came across Vasia Markides’ 2008 documentary Hidden in the Sand in which Famagustians on both sides talk about how they feel about the division.


Bogac emailed the documentary maker and they began to correspond regularly. One day Markides called and said: “Are you still interested in Varosha? Because it’s haunting me.”

“Yes,” said Bogac, “it’s haunting me too.” They began to share ideas about how to improve the situation and that’s how the Famagusta Ecocity Project first took off.

The idea is for Varosha to become a model for green technologies. “We need to pay attention to the signs that nature is giving us,” says Markides, referring to the way nature has reclaimed the town. “It’s about using the energy of the sun – that we have so much of in Cyprus – rather than relying on fossil fuels.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity – since we have to rebuild a city from scratch, why not do it the right way this time? Back in the 1970s when all the hotels were built on the coast, they blocked the sun from hitting the beach after 1pm!”

The project launches in January 2014 when Markides will begin making a documentary film about the effort to turn the Famagusta region into a thriving eco-city. It kicks off on 16 January with an architectural design studio overlooking the ghost city, where local and international experts will begin planning a sustainable future.

There is one big snag, however – those barbed wire fences and patrolling soldiers. While Cyprus remains divided, Varosha is likely to remain off-limits. Central to any settlement is the idea of “territorial adjustment” in which property taken from Greek Cypriots would be reinstated in full – this will also mean re-housing many Turkish Cypriots.

Nearly all of the property in the fenced-off area of Varosha belongs to Greek Cypriots – and it is uninhabited. Greek Cypriots argue that it would be a good confidence-building measure for the town to be returned before peace talks resume (on hold since March 2012.)

“It is a delicate issue”, says Fiona Mullen, an economist and part of the Famagusta Ecocity Project. “While it is true that it would make a very big difference to how Greek Cypriots view Turkey, the Turks and Turkish Cypriots have always worried that if they gave back Varosha, the Greek Cypriots might just “pocket” it, and not give anything in return.” So the longstanding position of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots is that Varosha forms part of a comprehensive settlement – past proposals have included re-opening ports and airports in the north.


Bogac is hopeful, despite the challenges. “The problem in Cyprus is not the politics,” she says. “The problem is we are waiting for others to come and start something in our own country – but if we start such a movement for the first time I think we can get ready for any economic or financial situation. We have to do something for this city.”   Markides shares Bogac’s optimism.

“To really take a place that is a symbol of war and neglect and hatred and abandonment, and turn it into a model that the rest of the world could use – to me it’s a success story even if we only bring awareness, a plan for other communities.”


Ceren Bogac & Vasia Markides





Cyprus town remains hostage to inertia of Greece-Turkey reunification talks

This story appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde – Guillaume Perrier , Tuesday 7 May 2013

Once popular with tourists, Famagusta is stuck in limbo within UN’s ‘green line’ buffer zone set up after 1974 Turkish invasion – 

Cypriots see Famagusta as a lost paradise. Before the  Turkish invasion in 1974  the resort on the island’s east coast, with its beaches of white sand, was the main tourist attraction on  Cyprus.  The town looked back on a rich past spanning several centuries, with Venetian ramparts and the  Lala Mustafa Pasha mosque, formerly Saint Nicholas’s, a replica of Reims cathedral built by the French Lusignan dynasty, which ruled the island in the 14th and 15th centuries.

But for the past 40 years Famagusta has been in limbo. Deserted by its residents, closed by the Turkish military and ringed with barbed wire, a large part of the town is waiting for a long-awaited thaw. Thousands of expropriated Greek Cypriots, who have taken refuge south of the “green line”, still refuse to forget their old home. The fate of Varosha, a district that has been empty since the invasion, is a recurrent topic for talks between the two halves of the island. Last year rumours claimed it might be handed back to end the deadlock, which has continued despite the good offices of the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.  But nothing has happened.

“The question has been on the agenda since the 1980s,” says Osman Ertug, the Turkish Cypriot presidential spokesman and special adviser on negotiations with the south. “It is one of the cards we hold, but it is part of an overall agreement and cannot be separated from a share-out of energy resources, or the blockade of sea and airports. The UN security council is mainly responsible for the inertia.”

The financial crisis in the southern part of the island has, momentarily, sidelined the issue of reunification, barely mentioned during the presidential election campaign in February, which brought to power Nicos Anastasiades, generally thought to be in favour of talks with the north. “Dervis Eroglu [the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] called him to congratulate him and suggest a meeting. We sent him an invitation to dinner to get the process moving again,” Ertug explains.

Turkey  is also keen to restart negotiations quickly. “We should encourage both sides in Cyprus to find a solution together,” the Turkish minister for European affairs, Egemen Bagis, told the Luxemburger Wort daily. “They are like married couples. Turkey, Greece  and Britain are like parents who want to save their marriage.” But so far there has been no response to this offer. Sapped by the crisis, Nicosia is reluctant to enter negotiations at a difficult time. “But it never is the right time,” Ertug counters. “There have been seven leaders in half a century, including an archbishop [Makarios] and a communist [Dimitris Christofias], but still no peace. A crisis may offer opportunities too,” he adds.

According to the north, the question of hydrocarbon reserves off the coast of Cyprus could lead to useful negotiations for both sides. Turkey disputes Cyprus’s right to exploit these resources on its own. It is demanding a fair share-out between the two communities.

Both parts of Cyprus certainly stand to gain from greater co-operation. “Gas is an opportunity to kick-start negotiations on reunification,” says Cengiz Aktar, a Turkish columnist and specialist on European affairs. “We must knock down the walls,” advocates the Turkish Cypriot economist Hasan Gungor, another presidential adviser. “The biggest Toyota car factory is located in Turkey but Greek Cypriots import their Toyotas from Japan, despite the fact that they cost less on the other side of the island,” he notes. The cost of separation could be a powerful incentive for both parties to reach a compromise.

A new vision for a ghost city

By Zoe Christodoulides – Published: October 2, 2013 – Cyprus Mail

BORDERED BY barbed wire and out of bounds to all but a handful of Turkish military since the invasion nearly 40 years ago, rapidly crumbling Varosha makes for a haunting image.

Amid recent talk of the possible return of abandoned and derelict area as part of the ongoing negotiations on the Cyprus problem that are expected to resume in the coming weeks, one young Greek Cypriot filmmaker now living in New York has a vision that goes a step further than just a possible return of the area. Vasia Markides is aiming for the so-called ‘ghost town’ and its surrounding region to be turned into Europe’s model ecocity based on sustainability and permaculture.

Vasia is now reaching out to raise much needed money for a thought-provoking film aiming to document this transformation that she hopes will make waves locally, and far beyond the shores of Cyprus.

The project is more than just a romantic whimsy and has the support of a group of professionals who are at the ready to help make this ecocity become a reality.

Amongst them are Ceren Bogac, a Turkish-Cypriot architect and psychologist who grew up in the area and still lives in Famagusta to this day. Then there’s Jan Wampler, a distinguished Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and world renowned expert of sustainable community design, as well as leading economist Fiona Mullen and Bernard Amadei, founder of the international Engineers Without Boarders development organisation.

“Any reopening of Varosha, if and when that occurs, presents a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and rebuild a better future,” says Vasia. “Yet it comes with significant risks. Without careful planning, it could become just another unsustainable development in an already crowded Mediterranean tourism market.”

The idea is that of rebuilding Varosha in the context of a model ecopolis promoting peaceful coexistence amongst all of Famagusta’s inhabitants, embracing the latest eco-city technologies, and becoming a centre for reconciliation and sustainability within a troubled region.

Inspired by her mother’s nostalgia for her hometown, it was the stories that Vasia grew up with as a child that motivated her to launch her career as a filmmaker with a documentary short in 2008 called Hidden in the Sand about Famagusta and the Cyprus Problem that has kept the town in captivity.

Last year, Vasia decided to finally pursue a longer and more elaborate film on the subject as she began to meet other individuals who shared this dream.

As the idea grew, director/producer Armando Garma-Fernandez joined the production team and the ideas for the film became all the more concrete.

The camera will start to tell the story of the eco-team as it watches them rally support for the ecocity project across the island and beyond. It will involve meeting the Turkish Cypriots who live in Famagusta today, hearing what it has been like for them living next to this ghost city, and what exactly they would like to see done with it in the future.

“We want to document the memories and dreams of the Greek Cypriot Famagusta refugee community as they hope and plan for their city’s impending revival,” says Vasia. “We’ll engage diplomats, business leaders, port workers, restaurant and hotel owners, soldiers, teachers, artists, and other Famagusta citizens from both sides of the divide in a dialogue about what a Famagusta ecocity could look like, recording their reactions; both positive and negative.”

The short term aim is to see how the team prepares the ground in both communities to find the strength and resolve to crack a decades-long conflict using a fresh idea.

Whether the team fails or succeeds in its Cypriot mission, it is hoped that the documentary will still be able to provide a blueprint for other towns to use in preparing their own communities for a more stable and lasting future.

Vasia and her team are currently trying to raise at least $30,000 to ensure that they can get started with production for the official launch of the Famagusta Ecocity Project in January when the entire cast of characters expects to get together for the first time.

Donations will help with all the expenses associated with the production, from videography and equipment to editing, website maintenance, transportation costs around the island and paying translators/transcribers.

“We won’t be able to move forward if we cannot raise the funds. Unless we get financial support, then the project will likely die a sad death,” Vasia says.

Beyond the obvious financial factors, Vasia is fully aware that there will be plenty of other challenges standing in the way of both the filming itself and the rather idealistic transformation of Famagusta into a thriving cultural and environmental hub.

Obtaining entry into Varosha is sure to be an exceptionally bumpy road. Varosha currently remains surrounded with barbed wire and is held strictly off limits by the Turkish military. “But that’s exactly what makes it an interesting film subject,” argues the filmmaker with avid enthusiasm.

Even research is hardly an easy matter, with little documented material of the state of the area. In some cases, Vasiahas obtained photos from searches online, others have been received from people who have either snuck in or have been let in.

“Whatever the case may be, we don’t ask too many questions – we’re just happy to receive them and don’t want to get anyone in trouble,” she says.

And what if the political discussions on Varosha do not amount to anything? What happens to the whole project?

“Obviously we want to see the city returned soon so that Cypriots can begin to come together and start the healing process. But if it takes years for the city to be returned then we have to be sure that we have a plan of action for how to proceed with the reconstruction,” explains Vasia.

“We don’t know exactly where the film will take us, but we do know a lot of what we want to say, regardless of whether we have access to the city or not,” she adds. “Under the current conditions, we can continue to observe the area from the outside, record what we can, and talk to the Turkish migrant and Turkish Cypriot populations inhabiting the rest of the city.”

Given that the other half of the population whose stories that the filmmaker needs access to are all living in the south of the island, there is enough work that can be done initially without the team gaining direct access to the ghost city. “Our goal is, after all, to lay the foundation and have the plans ready to go if and when the fenced off city is opened up again.”

What the filmmaker wants to make clear is that this endeavour is not just about benefiting Varosha. It’s about Famagusta as a whole, the future of the island, and a larger vision for grass roots change around the world.

“What we have in Varosha and Famagusta is a unique opportunity to bring fresh energy to the region, reset global standards for infrastructure design and change how individuals can be active participants in planning their future,” she argues.

On Cyprus Beach, Stubborn Relic of Conflict

By Dan Bilefsky  – Published: August 2, 2012 – The New York Times

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus — Snakes slither inside dilapidated houses in the abandoned seaside resort of Varosha, a ghost town of decaying vintage cars and crumbling villas where time stopped in August 1974

That was the year when Turkey,  in response to a Greek-inspired coup attempt in Cyprus, invaded the island, dividing it into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north. Of the roughly 15,000 residents of Varosha who panicked and fled — most of them of Greek origin — nearly all expected to be back in their homes in a matter of days.

Instead, they have been subjected to a decades-long exile in which the Turkish Army has guarded Varosha, enclosing it with barbed wire and allowing only nature to reclaim it.

“I lost everything after the Turks invaded: my home, my factory, my orange groves,” said Harris Demetriou, 71, a Greek Cypriot whose family fled their handsome villa and left behind an ice cream business in Varosha. “I try not to dwell on the past or my misery. I have given up.” Mr. Demetriou has since rebuilt his life in a suburb near Nicosia, the Cypriot capital.

After the invasion, hundreds of thousands of people on both sides were forced out of their homes, leaving a legacy of resentment and mutual recrimination. But the numerous other Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot villages that were abandoned were resettled or occupied. Varosha is an anomaly, kept like a petrified urban museum, enclosed, boarded up and frozen in time.

With its pristine beaches and hotels that once drew the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton now transformed into a no man’s land, Varosha has become a potent symbol of the seeming intractability of the conflict. Greeks say Varosha has been lingering in suspended animation so that the Turks can use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations. The Turks, for their part, blame Greek intransigence.

A United Nations peace plan in 2004 proposed returning Varosha to Greek Cypriot control within a loose confederation that the Turkish Cypriots accepted. But the Greek Cypriots rejected reunifying the island.

And so Varosha, a section in the northeastern city of Famagusta, remains stuck in a time warp. Its hotels sit on vacant beaches, windowless, bullet-pocked. On the beach bordering the area, young women in bikinis throw beach balls and sip cocktails, seemingly oblivious to the hulking bombed-out buildings behind them. A Turkish officer stares down sternly from a guard tower, a sign nearby warning that trespassers risk being shot.

The few who have managed to sneak in to Varosha in the years after invasion, as well as Turkish Cypriots who did military service there, say they witnessed a place that felt like a Hollywood set. Okan Dagli, a Turkish Cypriot from Famagusta who saw the area when he served in the army, said it felt like a dystopia.

“Everything was looted and crumbling,” Mr. Dagli said. “It was as if time had stopped. It was both very sad and very disturbing.”

Cypriots who have had a rare glimpse behind the barbed wire described trees bursting through the roofs of abandoned houses and mannequins in 1970s bell-bottoms staring out of shattered storefront windows. The few grand pianos not looted by Turkish soldiers were sitting idle and dust-covered in abandoned living rooms.

For some Turkish Cypriots in the area, the occupation of Varosha — still heavily patrolled by Turkish soldiers — is an outrage and embarrassment.

“It makes me feel ashamed and angry,” said Selma Caner, 28, a Turkish Cypriot philosophy teacher, sunbathing on the beach next to the barbed-wire fence blocking off Varosha. “It’s a bit creepy coming here. But after a while, abnormality becomes normal.”

Mr. Demetriou, the former Greek Cypriot resident of Varosha, said he dreamed of reopening an ice cream business in Cyprus in the late 1970s. But with his house and factory here looted and occupied by the Turks, Cypriot banks refused to grant him a loan, he said, because he had no collateral. He and his wife lived off her modest teacher’s salary.

In 2003, when the borders between north and south were opened — creating a short-lived period of optimism when both sides moved closer toward reconciliation — Mr. Demetriou and his sister went back to Famagusta and stood outside the school where their father once taught; they sobbed. He recalled that when he went to see his family home across the barbed wire fence and asked a Turkish soldier if he could visit it, the soldier replied, “Leave or I will shoot you.”

The Varosha of his youth, he said, was a place of golden beaches next to an azure-blue sea where Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived largely separately. When his uncle, an officer who spoke Turkish, told him that the Turkish Cypriots were compatriots, he recalls replying with youthful indignation, “No, we are Greeks!”

“Varosha was the place to be,” he said. “I remember thinking how lucky we were to have this paradise.”

Mr. Demetriou is not optimistic about getting back his home and business. Two-thirds to three-quarters of property in Northern Cyprus was owned by Greek Cypriots in 1974, according to the International Crisis Group, which says that any attempt to find a negotiated settlement must address the property rights of the island’s 210,000 displaced persons from both sides. Many Greek Cypriots have sought restitution through international courts or through a settlement fund administered by Northern Cyprus.

Some Turkish Cypriots argue that only by giving the Greek Cypriots back their property can the island reclaim its former jewel. Urban planners say it would take up to 10 years, and about $12 billion, to restore Varosha.

Mr. Dagli, the Turkish Cypriot from Famagusta, who is part of a group promoting reconciliation, said he hoped that economics would trump nationalism and that Varosha could be restored to Greek Cypriot control. He wants it to be revived as a prime tourism spot, providing an economic boon to the whole island. He recalls sneaking into the area as a child for coveted items like soda and ice cream that were off limits in the walled Turkish enclave nearby.

“I want Varosha to be a live city — not a ghost city,” Mr. Dagli said. “We have no chance if we remain divided for ever.”

But not all Turkish Cypriots want to give Varosha back. After the 1974 invasion, an estimated 150,000 Turkish settlers arrived in the north of Cyprus, many of them poor and agrarian Turks from the mainland, who Greek Cypriots say are illegal immigrants used by Turkey as a demographic weapon.

Satilmis Sisli, a nurse from Izmir, in the west coast of Turkey, lives in Famagusta, across the street from a tall barbed wire fence sealing off Varosha’s crumbling Greek Orthodox Churches and mangled homes. He has lived 33 years in the former home of a Greek Cypriot, which he has adorned with lemon trees. He has no intention of leaving.

“I am a Turk, so I don’t know if things would be better if we were reunited — most people think it would be worse,” Mr. Sisli said, standing in his fragrant garden. “Greek Cypriots won’t come back as long as Turks rule here, and if they come back, we will lose everything.”